BREAKING NEWS
This content is not available in your region

Afghan president flees as Taliban await 'peaceful transfer' of power

Access to the comments Comments
By Euronews with AP
euronews_icons_loading
Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021.
Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Zabi Karimi
Text size Aa Aa

The Taliban have entered Afghanistan's capital Kabul, and are awaiting the "peaceful transfer" of power, with the militant group almost in control of the country.

Taliban negotiators went to the presidential palace to negotiate terms with government figures, an official said.

The negotiators on the government side include former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council.

The Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal meanwhile said a "peaceful transfer of power" to a transitional government will take place.

The Taliban have taken over at blistering speed, conquering major cities throughout the country over the past week.

"The Afghans should not worry...there will be no attack on the city (of Kabul). And there will be a peaceful transfer of power to a transitional government," Mirzakwal said in a video message.

The Taliban have said they don't plan to take the capital by force, as their fighters entered Kabul on Sunday, having taken over all other major cities in the country.

Staff from foreign embassies have been hurriedly fleeing the country as the militants advanced on the capital.

Earlier on Sunday the Islamist militants seized the last major city outside of Kabul that was held by the central government, cutting off the capital to the east.

Helicopters could be seen landing at the US Embassy in Kabul, rapid shuttle-run flights which began just after the fall of Jalalabad.

Russia is working with other countries to hold an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the situation.

Foreign embassy staff evacuated

Many embassies emptied out in Kabul as the Taliban advanced on the city.

The staff of the US embassy in Kabul has been rushed to the Afghan capital's airport, where thousands of US troops have been dispatched, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday.

Canada temporarily closed its embassy in Kabul and evacuated staff, Canada's foreign ministry said,

The Dutch and French embassies in Kabul were evacuated and staff were moved to a location near the airport.

The EU said it was trying to secure its Afghan staff from possible reprisals.

"The situation is very urgent, we take it very seriously and continue to work together with the EU Member States to find quick solutions for them (Afghan staff) and for their safety. We are in close contact (...) with Member States to maximise the possibilities for our local staff and their dependants to move to a safe place," an EU spokesperson said.

The Czech Republic also approved a plan to withdraw their Afghan staff from their embassy after earlier taking their diplomats to Kabul International Airport.

Taliban capture the country in the space of a week

The collapse of Jalalabad, near a major border crossing with Pakistan, left Afghanistan's central government in control of just Kabul and five other provincial capitals out of the country's 34 on Sunday morning.

In a nationwide offensive that has taken just over a week, the Taliban has defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swathes of the country, even with some air support by the US military.

Warlords who Ashraf Ghani negotiated with just days earlier have surrendered to the Taliban or fled, leaving him without a military option.

Ongoing negotiations in Qatar, the site of a Taliban office, also failed to stop the insurgents' advance.

Another provincial capital in Khost fell later on Saturday to the Taliban.

The fall on Saturday of Mazar-e-Sharif, the country’s fourth largest city, which Afghan forces and two powerful former warlords had pledged to defend, handed the insurgents control over all of northern Afghanistan.

The US has continued holding peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar this week, and the international community has warned that a Taliban government brought about by force would be shunned.

But the insurgents had little interest in making concessions as they racked up victories on the battlefield.

Afghans fear reprisals from extremist Taliban rule

Thousands of civilians now live in parks and open spaces in Kabul itself, fearing the future. Hundreds of people gathered in front of private banks, trying to withdraw their life savings before trying to leave the country.

Many Afghans fear a return to the Taliban’s oppressive rule. The group had previously governed Afghanistan under a harsh version of Islamic law in which women were forbidden to work or attend school, and could not leave their homes without a male relative accompanying them.

Salima Mazari, one of the few female district governors in the country, expressed fears about a Taliban takeover on Saturday in an interview from Mazar-e-Sharif, before it fell.

“There will be no place for women,” said Mazari, who governs a district of 36,000 people near the northern city. “In the provinces controlled by the Taliban, no women exist there anymore, not even in the cities. They are all imprisoned in their homes.”

In a statement late on Saturday, however, the Taliban insisted their fighters wouldn't enter people's homes or interfere with businesses. They also said they'd offer an “amnesty” to those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign forces.

“The Islamic Emirate once again assures all its citizens that it will, as always, protect their life, property and honor and create a peaceful and secure environment for its beloved nation,” the militants said. “In this regard, no one should worry about their life.”

Despite the pledge, those who can afford a ticket have been flocking to Kabul International Airport, the only way out of the country as the Taliban took the last border crossing still held by the government Sunday at Torkham.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told local broadcaster Geo TV that Pakistan halted cross-border traffic there after the militants seized it.